Study: 9 in 10 ALS patients infected with Lyme bacteria

There have been several studies that found a strong link between Lyme disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. The Halperin paper is one. The Halperin paper found Lyme infection in nearly all ALS patients in their study group, but Halperin, a long-time "debunker" of chronic Lyme disease dismissed this as a "coincidence" and the paper's authors even fudged the numbers in their summary to make the Lyme infection rate seem "only" 47%.

Not too long ago, scientific research papers were freely available online but nowadays, most are zealously guarded by a few publishing conglomerates that charge about the same for an article as you would expect to pay for the latest music DVD of a superstar. When you purchase, you give them your name, address, email address and IP address and have to agree not to reproduce the article. The whole system is designed to keep medical breakthroughs secret to the public in general and journalists in particular, and to intimidate and prosecute those who seek to uncover such secret knowledge. Aaron Swartz sacrificed his life trying to change this situation.

No wonder that the average person with ALS has no inkling of the fact that there is solid research, showing that ALS is strongly associated with Lyme disease.

The Halperin paper mentions in its first paragraph (green box below) that nine out of nineteen ALS patients tested positive for Lyme. The notoriously unreliable ELISA test was used, a test with an unacceptably high proportion of false negatives. So that would be 47% of ALS patients testing positive for Lyme.

47% would be an astonishingly high number by itself, but the paper's authors, led by the infamous "Chronic Lyme does not exist" anti-Lyme activist Dr. Halperin "cooked the books" and only casually mentioned further in the paper (red boxes below), that in fact it was 21 out of 24 ALS patients that tested Lyme-positive, making it 88%, or almost nine out of ten patients. Since the false-negative rate of the tests used is notoriously high, we are justified in concluding that most likely, every single ALS patient in their study was Lyme-positive.

The authors decided to pretend that cell-mediated immunity to Borrelia did not count as "Lyme-positive", even though it is a certain indicator of internal exposure to the bacterium.[1]

What was the likelihood, in 1990, the date of the study, of a person with ALS testing positive for Lyme disease? There were around 8,000 reported cases in 1990. IgM antibodies imply active Lyme infection, so we would expect to see only around 10,000 Americans testing positive for IgM antibodies. IgG antibodies last much longer, so we will take all reported cases from 1982 to 1990 into account, approx. 35,000 patients testing IgG positive. Reported cases are largely based on positive test outcomes rather than clinical diagnoses, so we do not have to correct for false positives. However we do have to correct for actual cases vs. reported cases. The most alarmist estimations now in 2011 are that there are ten times more Lyme cases than reported. Assuming that in 1990, Lyme infections occured five times more often than reported to the CDC, we would expect 5 x (8,000 + 35,000) = 215,000 Americans to test positive for Lyme in 1990.

Source: CDC

In 1990, the US population was 249 million people. The percentage of people testing Lyme-positive would therefore be roughly estimated as (215,000 / 249,000,000) * 100% = 0.086%.

The mainstream medical establishment claims that chronic Lyme disease is very rare, and that Lyme disease certainly is generally not the cause of ALS. Therefore, according to their own statistics, if Lyme disease did not cause ALS, one would expect to see approx. 0.086% of ALS patients testing positive for Lyme disease. Instead, 87.5% of ALS patients tested positive in the Halperin paper. At least 21 out of 24 ALS patients had been infected with the Borrelia spirochete. Fasle negatives are very common, false positives are not.

Let that sink in for a moment. Instead of finding 0.086% Lyme-positive ALS patients, we find 87.5% Lyme-positive ALS patients in a large enough sample to be statistically significant. That is 87.5 / 0.086 = 1017 times as many Lyme positive ALS patients as we expected to see. According to the Halperin study, American ALS patients have about a thousand times greater chance to be Lyme-positive than the average American. Not 1000 percent, mind you. 1000 times. That is a 100000% greater occurence of being Lyme-positive. A hundred thousand percent more.

Critics may point out that in fact, about 1% of the US population tests positive for Lyme disease, instead of the statistics-based guesstimate of 0.086%. That would still mean that the ALS patients from the Halperin paper were a hundred times more likely to be Lyme-positive than the general population.

This means that which ever way you interpret the numbers, they state a solid case and that in the face of such overwhelming evidence, Lyme should be assumed the underlying cause of ALS. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, so a paper by the infamous anti-Lyme activist Dr. Steere who claims to have found no ALS patient testing positive for Lyme can not be considered counter-evidence, but merely evidence of ulterior motives.

We stress that unlike Atkinson-Barr's testimony, the Halperin paper is not merely anecdotal evidence by someone who is not even a medical doctor - it is a peer-reviewed, published medical study conducted by a team of qualified medical scientists, using control groups and other safeguards.

And even though their conclusion is that Lyme has nothing to do with ALS because they consider their findings to be "coincidental", we think their findings speak for themselves. Nine out of ten ALS patients were infected with the Lyme spirochete, whereas only one in a hundred random people are. Coincidence?


We reproduce part of the Halperin paper here in "fair use":

"Immunologic Reactivity Against Borrelia burgdorferi in Patients With Motor Neuron Disease" by Halperin, et al., Archives of Neurology, May 1990, Volume 47, Number 5, pages 586-594.

Halperin paper ALS Lyme

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